Turning Challenging Colleagues into Allies - Part One
Cooperation between colleagues can be vital to your company’s success. Unfortunately, in a world of competing priorities and agendas, that cooperation isn’t always easy to obtain. Fellow executives want to promote their own projects. Some associates may be stubborn and difficult to work with. Others may be more focused on advancing their careers than on furthering important initiatives started by other senior managers. How can you develop a beneficial alliance with a colleague who doesn’t want to cooperate?
Set the Stage for a Mutually Supportive Relationship
Before trying to persuade a difficult person it’s important to prepare your mind. Persuasion expert and bestselling author Robert Cialdini, PhD makes this recommendation: ‘First, think of qualities and traits of this person that you can like and admire. Reflecting on these will cause you to like that person (at least a little bit). Studies show that people can instinctively sense when others like them, and when they don’t. We tend to like those who like us,’ so if your colleague senses that you appreciate him or her, they will be inclined to like you in return. Cialdini concludes, ‘We are much more easily persuaded by those we like.’
Next, Get your “Foot in the Door”
Now that you’ve set the stage you’re ready to take the next step in getting your colleague on your side. In order to get cooperation, people will often argue with those who block their efforts or make obvious attempts to “butter them up.” This can backfire and leave you in a worse position.
If the one you’re trying to influence is stubborn or resistant, you may need to take another step first. The Foot-in-the-Door technique can effectively warm up relations – and a spirit of collaboration with colleagues and coworkers. Benjamin Franklin discovered this when America was still a British colony. His experience was analyzed by Dr. Elliot Aronson, a social psychologist voted to the list of The 100 Most Influential Psychologists of the Twentieth Century and coauthor Carol Tavris, PhD. They wrote: “While serving in the Pennsylvania legislature, Franklin was disturbed by the opposition and animosity of a fellow legislator. So he set out to win him over. He didn’t do it, he wrote, “by paying any servile respect to him” – that is, by doing the other man a favor – but by inducing his target to do a favor for him – loaning him a rare book from his library” In Franklin’s own words: